August 7, continued:
I’d planned to leave Nafplio as soon as I got to my car in the port parking lot, but my attention was distracted by a beautiful sailboat in the harbor just a few yards away. I walked along the length of the ship thinking, “I’d sure like to be on that boat.” Then the captain appeared out of his steering room, we started chatting, and he invited me on board! It’s not his boat — it belongs to a shipping magnate who also owns an ostrich/sheep/cattle farm and a football team in Tripoli (the one in Greece) — but his boss was off visiting the farm, so I was allowed to sneak on for a little bit. It’s a 98-foot, two-masted sailboat built in 1947, and it’s just gorgeous. It takes a full crew of twelve to sail it, and that doesn’t count the cook, the waiter, the mechanic, and other assorted staff. I didn’t get to see much, but I did get to sit on deck and chat and eat watermelon for a while. The captain, Steve/Stelios (Greeks always call themselves by English names when they’re speaking to me), told me all about the Greek islands. He was extremely friendly (don’t worry, mom — I was very careful not to do anything that might get me carried off by a strange man).
I left Nafplio in a hurry in hopes of making it back to the farm before dark, both because I didn’t feel like driving in the dark and because I wanted to propose a “program change” to George (he and I were supposed to spend Wednesday traveling in Mani, but the weather forecast called for such extreme heat that I wanted to put off the journey by two days). But no one has told the makers of Google Maps that the times they give fail to take into account the twisty, windy roads that go up and over mountains. My trip was beautiful — views of Nafplio, Argos, and the sea all the way up; views down into the farming valleys of Tripoli on the way down. Aside from having to stop for a herd of goats in the road, it was a lovely drive.
I arrived home just as it was truly getting dark. I hopped out of my car, said a quick hello to Nicoletta (our across-the-street neighbor, who is happy to prattle away at me in Greek despite my cluelessness), and started down the road to George’s house. There’s only one house between George’s house and ours, and it belongs to Nick, George’s brother. Nick was on his porch with a group of friends, and they called me up. Suddenly I’d been kidnapped, unable to express the urgency of my need to speak to George (very little is urgent in Greece), and found myself being fed cake.
This was the start of a lovely evening. Eventually Nick found George and my desire to “change the program” was communicated. In the meantime, I hung out with Nick and his wife Georgia; Peter & Mary; and John & Stella (you’ll note the English names). They were extremely generous. I’d assumed that, since I’d started with cake, I’d just skip dinner. But then food appeared, and then more food! Georgia could start her own taverna — she’s a talented cook and can whip up quite a feast. She made zucchini fritters, a sort of bruschetta that’s called something like paximathi, artichoke heart fried in an egg batter, and an egg/cheese/tomato dish (sort-of like scrambled eggs, but more watery). She also served cucumber sticks, which made me really happy, because I’d never seen anyone but my mom do this. They followed this with a small glass of tsipouro (the Greek version of fire water, which reminded me a lot of poison). Then came fresh plums for dessert. After a while, Georgia started bringing out things for me to taste: capers bottled with their leaves (they tasted better than any capers back home); a vinegary marinated salad weed that looked suspiciously like purslane; olives that had been home-preserved. Such a treat!
It was great fun to watch the conversation, too. They tried to include me from time to time, but they mostly spoke among themselves in rapid Greek. It’s fun to watch Greeks chat — it usually looks like they’re arguing, but in the friendliest of ways. Then there are the people who hardly chat at all; some people here seem to have cultivated the art of being nearly-silent for hours at a go.
The only downside of this great evening was that I ended up with very little sleep — once again, I was out too late. And I have no photographs, because my camera was in the car the entire time!